Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Safe Travels: A Sweet Tradition

Does anyone else associate almost every great memory they’ve ever experienced with food? I look back on my college career (and perhaps beyond, now that I think about it) and I recall faces but not names, places but not directions on how to get there, and classes I attended but not the professors who taught it. But for some reason, every single memory that has food in it I can remember it perfectly. I know where I went, what I ate, and whom I was with. I know how I felt before, during, and after eating it.

Food has become quite an intimate thing for me, because nothing else parallels the creativity and the adventure of going to a restaurant or coming up with a recipe. I think back on the time my first roommates at George Mason University took me to Choices By Shawn, a place I would later enthusiastically take others and still wholeheartedly recommend their fries. When friends heard or found out I was gluten free, they would text me the name of a restaurant offering gluten free foods or say they found a product at the store I should try (usually a beer brand). And when I had a recipe I wanted to experim-, I mean, share (Right. Share. That’s the word.) with them, many were kind enough to have a taste and tell me what they honestly thought.

These people, my dearest friends, are the reason I pursued my mad scientist tendencies in the kitchen without my being sorry about it. No one has ever told me “It’s good, I mean, for a gluten free recipe.” If a recipe needs some tinkering, the people in my life will sit down and work with me to make it stupendously delicious. One of those people, and forgive me for the mushy gushiness, is the boyfriend.

When he and I first started dating, he and I would walk around campus after dark or go to the gym right before it closed. We are both fairly active, now in the form of running and rock climbing, but early in our relationship it was a form of bonding.

He didn’t bat an eyelash when I told him I was gluten free. In fact, he was interested in what I ate to make sure I didn’t get glutened when we went out to eat or when we made food together. On our first Valentine’s Day, he made us buckwheat blini with cream and fruit preserves.

But one night, before we actually started dating and being more than friends, we did something so random and so spontaneous I knew I was in it for the long haul.

We made pie, a delicious gluten free apple pie… at 10 p.m.  

It must have been after a late “date” night at the gym, but we came back to the Mason townhouses and found ourselves with nothing to do. We could watch a movie or do homework. We could go on a moonlit walk around Fairfax. But really, after a workout like that, we wanted food. And then he said, “I know! Let’s make a pie!”

“At 10 p.m.?” I asked, incredulous. I’d never baked something so late before, and I was known for my early bedtime. That, and we didn’t even have the ingredients to make a pie.

Before I knew it, we were in his car on the way to Wegmans, still wearing our workout clothes and sneakers. We found a pre-made piecrust in the freezer section, got a bag of organic Granny Smith apples, some whipping cream, and we were good to go.

I still think back on the memory with a smile, especially now that he is gone for another summer to sell educational products in Texas.

Why? Because he wanted to make a pie before he left. An apple pie.

Unfortunately, this particular pie was fresh out of the oven and too hot to handle right when he walked out the door on Saturday, so he didn’t get to taste how delicious it was. But with the family getting together for the weekend, it didn’t last very long and was happily received.

“It was never about eating the pie, anyway,” he explained. “All that mattered was making it together.”

So now we have a new tradition. Whenever one of us is going away, no matter how long, we will make pie the night before. It isn’t to symbolize that the person is leaving; rather, it’s to symbolize safe travels and great adventures while apart.

I’ve said this before; this isn’t a goodbye. It’s a see you later, a "safe travels" and "I wish you well" sort of thing. Still, I can’t wait for him to come home. 

This pie’s crust is the same one from October’s GFRR challenge, only this time I measured it out in grams. One of the hardest things I’m noticing is how ounces and grams are converted to each other. Sometimes, I see thirty grams equaling an ounce while others say 28[.349] grams is an ounce. And then of course there’s the difference between the fluid ounce (29.57 grams or milliliters) and the regular ounce. One cookbook, I don’t recall which one, had pages of these different measurements and briefly caused my head to spin. I’d just made it easier for myself by rounding it up to thirty grams/milliliters per ounce for my recipes, and so far they’ve worked out fine.

Unless it’s a recipe that I make from a cookbook with those specific ounces to grams measurements, Meals with Morri is a 1 oz = 30 g/ml kind of blog. I tried making the dough by first measuring it out by ounces and then converting the scale to grams. The dough turned out just as delicious as before, but I ended up using more water than I had in the fall (likely due to the weather more than anything), and it was just too frustrating with how an ounce varied in its weight.

Along with a bag of Granny Smiths, we also had quinces that needed to be used up, so it just made sense to combine the two. And although apple is usually a double-crust or lattice-topped sort of pie, I used the remaining scraps of dough from the bottom crust to top the pie using cookie cutters in the shape of animals. I didn’t have room for the moose shape, though, so I placed in the center a star instead.

Safe Travels Apple Quince Pie

For the piecrust:
223 g Unsalted butter
112 g Glutinous rice flour
86 g Amaranth flour
56 g Garbanzo bean flour
58 g Tapioca starch
28 g Coconut flour
1/2 tsp. Sea salt
120 ml Ice water

For how the dough is prepared, click here. Like the recipe in November, this will make enough dough for two crusts, so save the other half of this recipe for another sensational pie you have in mind.

For the filling:
4 Quinces, roughly chopped
70 ml Honey
3 (around 154 g each) Granny Smith apples roughly chopped

Honey syrup (30 ml honey and 30 ml Water)

Place the chopped quince into a pressure cooker or large pot and fill it with water 2 – 3 inches above the fruit.
Stir in the honey and cook on medium heat for two or three hours and let it sit until the liquid has thickened into a syrup.
Fold in the chopped apple and set aside.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and bring to about room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Dust the counter or cutting board with tapioca starch.
Use a rolling pin and flatten the dough into a flat circle.
Place the dough into a greased 9-inch pie dish and remove the extra dough around the edges for the shapes on top.
Pour and evenly distribute the fruit in the dish, and then lay the pie dough cookie cutter shapes to your preference.
Bake for 15 minutes, and then brush the dough with a silicon pastry brush the honey syrup.
Pour the remaining honey syrup throughout the filling and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let it sit for a few hours before serving with whipped cream and your hot drink of choice.

Makes 1 9-inch pie, or 8 servings.

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